It’s easy to get caught up in the spending frenzy that has become the modern American holiday season. There are messages everywhere telling you to SPEND! SPEND! SPEND! that can make it easy to lose track of what’s most important about the holidays.
So, this year we’re not going to tell you what to buy, but how to buy, to help you focus on what’s important, reduce your holiday carbon footprint and hopefully save you some money, too!
1. Focus on experiences, not things
The holidays are, first and foremost, about spending time with your friends and family. And our guess is that if you’re reading this you share our belief that spending time is best done outside. So, go on a family hike, get a legal permit to cut down your own Christmas tree, plan a ski weekend with your cousins, head to the desert with your best friends. Just get out there!
We’re not saying to forgo of gift giving all together. Heck, who doesn’t like to both give and receive a thoughtful gift! But focus on the indispensable. Last year we put together a list of gift ideas that weren’t gear—from adventure sports lessons, Hipcamp gift cards to damaged gear repairs. See the whole list here.
2. Give gifts that keep on giving
Your daughter’s first camping trip, a year-long National Parks pass, your wife’s first hike up Half Dome, a night in an amazing treehouse—these are all experiential gifts that will keep on giving.
But let’s face it—thoughtful gear can lead you to some pretty amazing experiences.
💭 For that camping trip, your daughter will need a sleeping bag. She’ll also be able to use that on sleepovers, while making forts, and on camping trips to come. The sleeping bag will be her ticket for future adventures. The sleeping bag will keep on giving.
⛺️ A lightweight backpacking tent can be the first step into moving from car camping to the backcountry, opening up a whole world of off-the-beaten-path terrain to explore within national parks and beyond. The backpack will keep on giving.
🏔 A nice pair of socks can make or break your next hike (and maybe even save a load of laundry). The socks will keep on giving. Get it?
✨ Lastly, we firmly believe that camping—nights spent outside, sleeping under the stars, huddled around campfires, snuggled cozy in a cabin—are experiences that keep on giving. Nature is good for the soul, and for your mind, and good for your health. So, encourage your loved ones to get outside this holiday season. (A Hipcamp gift card is a good way to start!)
3. Buy local! (Sorry not sorry, Amazon)
Sure, online shopping is super convenient, and sometimes necessary. But remember how much plastic and packaging you threw out last time you ordered from Amazon Prime?
According to the EPA, industrial pollution is responsible for almost 50% of all pollution in the US. Buying from local stores rather than big-box retailers and online stores can dramatically cut down on the processing, packaging, transportation and ultimately the carbon footprint of your holidays.
Not to mention, buying local has far-reaching economic and social benefits. If you want to get all technical, look up the “multiplier effect of local independent businesses” in an economics journal. Summed up: supporting local businesses stimulates your local economy.
And lastly, supporting and engaging in your local economy brings your community tighter together. So instead of secretly ordering your gifts online from inside your cubicle, spend a day supporting your local artisan community at a crafts fair, the home goods store that just gets your hometown style, and of course, your mom-and-pop outdoor retailer that has been staving off the big guys for over a decade now.
For your holiday feasts? Head to your locals farmers market or use Local Harvest to find farmers and CSAs near you.
(Better yet, bring reusable shopping bags when you go!)
4. Used gear is your best friend
You would be surprised how much ‘used’ gear you can find out there that could pass as brand new. In fact, 80% of things sold on Ebay are still in their original packaging, so you can bet on some pretty good finds scouring resale sites and stores.
Where we love to find used gear:
- Your local thrift and used-gear stores!
- Patagonia Worn Wear
- Facebook Marketplace (and special Facebook groups)
Advice for buying used gear
- Be wary of buying used gear online because you won’t be able to check the quality of the item yourself. If you’re not feeling confident about the item, ask the seller for more information and to send you additional photos.
- Questions to ask:
- How long ago did you buy it?
- How much did you use it?
- Did you ever wash it?
- Are there any problems with the item I should know about?
- If something is broken, that’s okay! Chances are it’s an easy, cheap fix (like, a broken zipper, for example).
- Sometimes gear is unrepairable. For example, if you’re buying a jacket, make sure it’s still waterproof. Examine the inside of the jacket. Is the interior lining in rough shape? Chances are it’s not waterproof anymore.
There are certain things you should never buy used:
- Helmets! Most helmets are only made to endure one big hit. If you’re buying a helmet used, you have no clue if it’s been in a big accident, or if it’s seen repeated damage over the course of sometime. This could be very dangerous!
- Shoes: You can probably find some good deals on used shoes somewhere, but make sure you try them on first because someone else’s foot may have broken them in already. Definitely don’t gift someone someone else’s used hiking boots!
- Sleeping bags: feels weird, plus sleeping bags loose their warmth overtime.
- Climbing ropes (and most climbing gear): as with all gear, the more you use it, the less and less functional it becomes overtime. You do not want to test the functionality while on lead, trust us.
5. Screw wrapping paper (and other eco-friendly holiday hacks)
Don’t get us wrong, wrapping paper is shiny, festive and fun. But consider this: each year, the US uses 4 million tons of wrapping paper—pretty much all of which goes straight to a landfill. And no, burning the plastic coated paper is not a good way to “recycle” wrapping paper.
So, use newspaper, old scraps of paper, or reused wrapping paper instead.
Here are some other ways to have a greener holiday season:
- Use reusable shopping bags when you go shopping at your local stores
- Carpool and go shopping with a friend
- Buy used or upcycled
- Get crafty and make your own gifts
- Don’t leave your decorative lights on all day
6. Research and buy from socially and environmentally responsible brands
Ironically, the outdoor industry has a huge problem with supporting brands that sell products that are harmful for our environment. Luckily, there are lots of companies who are leading the way in creating sustainable, responsible goods. You should support them.
Here are a few of our favorite companies who are doing things right:
- Patagonia: From their used and repaired gear program, Worn Wear, to to using recycled materials in their clothing, to their countless sustainable initiatives, Patagonia's corporate responsibility is something every company should live up to. Plus, their gear is well made and in vogue.
Read Patagonia's mission statement.
- Columbia Sportswear: Like Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear focuses on making high-quality clothing and gear from responsibly sourced materials. They also give customers a discount when they return used gear which is either resold or recycled.
Read about Environmental Responsibility at Columbia Sportswear.
- Tentree: For every item sold, Tentree plants...ten trees. Tentree has planted over 17 million trees in over 10 countries and counting. The cool thing is you can track your trees online and see how they’re doing!
Learn about Tentree's goal is to become the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet.
- MiiR: Similar to Tentree, every MiiR product sold funds a trackable giving project that focuses on sustainability.
Read about MiiR's Product to Project program.
- Clif Bar: Clif was recently named a 2017 Climate Leader by the EPA for its efforts to promote climate action and green power across the supply change. They focus on "organics, less packaging, more planet-friendly transportation, less landfill and partners that keep us on our toes." Plus, their new flavors have been bomb. Blueberry Crisp, anyone?!
Read more about Clif.
- Nectar Sunglasses: Nectar makes sweet, affordable shades for an extra sweet purpose: saving honey bees.
Learn about how saving the bees can help save the world.
- Melanzana: Melanzana may be one of the last "TRUE local apparel companies," dedicated to operating on a local, low-impact scale. A total of 20 employees design, cut and sew all their products right in Leadville, CO. Their micro-grid hoodies have become so popular that the company shut down their mail order system until they can responsibly expand in 2018. Don't worry—you can still snag an item in beautiful Leadville!
- The Earth Ship: this innovative new company makes "sustainable outdoor art gear" from recycled water bottles. And for every tent sold, ten trees are planted.
Read their mission.
Cover photo by Bryan Dalare at Saranac Lake Island Campground